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Cap Metro unveils funding forecast for next five years

Thursday, August 19, 2021 by Seth Smalley

On Wednesday, the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors took a long look at the upcoming fiscal year, from the projected costs of Project Connect’s rail lines to expanded bus routes and their associated infrastructural costs.

Over the next five years, all capital projects are expected to cost $806 million, with the primary cost factors being Project Connect (at just under $300 million) and bus and paratransit. Commuter rail projects are expected to cost $76.5 million, while property and asset management is expected to have a price tag of $31.8 million.

In terms of funding the $800 million, about $340 million is expected to come from grants and contributions, while $464 million comes from local funding and taxes.

Deputy CFO Kevin Conlan told the board that the Orange Line is projected to cost $26.2 million and the Blue Line $24.6 million. The Orange Line will run north and south through the center of the city and shares many stops north of the river with the Blue Line. The Blue Line will provide service to the airport and along Riverside when south of the river, in addition to its shared stops with the Orange Line in North Austin and downtown.

The MetroRapid bus route expansions are expected to cost $166 million over the next three years, part of which will be covered by the Austin Transit Partnership, according to Conlan. About $26 million will be spent on MetroRapid charging station infrastructure, while $30.5 million will be spent over the next three years on MetroRapid and MetroExpress Park & Rides, a feature that allows patrons to park in designated parking lots in outlying areas of the city and commute to central locations.

Getting into the updates since July, “Last Friday, we had an uptick of $6.3 million,” Conlan told the board, referring to 2021 sales tax revenue. “So we did increase our sales tax forecast for this year by that $6.3 million, along with increasing our budget next year for $6.6 million.”

The $300,000 difference in budgeting between the two years is based on a 4.8 percent assumed increase in yearly sales tax revenue.

While the sales tax revenue increased for 2022, the ride-share revenue estimate decreased by $1.4 million.

“That’s basically due to the effect that the pandemic has had on that program, but we’re still committed to vanpool and ride-share for the community,” he said.

Council Member Pio Renteria, who sits on the board, requested that the sources of the funding for each sub-program be made public with more specificity.

“We should designate where the money’s coming from. Just the who’s who of funding, because right now we have different agencies that work in, say, Project Connect,” Renteria said.

Capital Metro is holding a webinar next week and a public hearing in September.

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